Three smart stage comedies provide an antidote to holiday sweetness

An Octoroon; Love Love Love and The Motherf*cker With the Hat.
Molly O'Donnell

With Thanksgiving around the corner and Christmas close behind, it’s always good to help yourself to a dose of what’s real before the saccharine, over-the-top holiday entertainment arrives in earnest. Luckily, the Las Vegas theater community has conspired to bring us the antidote to all that sickly sweetness. A trio of funny and thought-provoking productions start their runs this weekend.

Beginning Thursday, Majestic Repertory Theatre brings us the Obie-winning An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Based on a 19th-century tale of a plantation owner who falls in love with a mixed-race woman, the 2014 reimagining takes a satirical look at the racism of the original Dion Boucicault story in order to give us space to think about exactly how things have changed. If previous productions are any gauge, audiences are also in for a lot of laughs about the naiveté of the past, thanks to a cast that includes lead Jason Nious.

Director Andrew Paul says audiences can expect “ton of laughs” from Love, Love, Love, opening at Art Square Theatre Saturday. Set in 1967 London, this play from popular contemporary playwright Mike Bartlett regards the relationship between Kenneth and Sandra, who are going to have to see whether love is enough to sustain them after the party has died down. This production is “a unique collaboration between local Cockroach Theatre and Pittsburgh’s Kinetic Theatre,” Paul says.

After its Vegas run concludes, the show will travel to Steel City along with its scenic designer Johnmichael Bohach and actors Aviana Glover, Mindy Woodhead, and Darren Weller. Before it leaves, though, Woodhead (Sandra) and Weller (Kenneth) will treat audiences to their “extraordinary chemistry as they age from 19 to 63 over the play’s three scenes,” Paul says. While Paul emphasizes the play’s comedic side, he also points out that it’s “as much an indictment of the Baby Boomers as it is a celebration,” asking questions about their hand in their kids’ debt and aimlessness.

Starting from a much less cheery place but contemplating similar questions about blame, The Motherf*cker With the Hat opens Friday and offers audiences comedy of darker variety. This Las Vegas Little Theatre production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ play presents the newly sober character Jackie (played by D.J. Hale) who’s trying to make things work with his old flame Veronica (Amanda Guardado). Unfortunately for them both, Veronica’s far from sober, and her potential infidelities conspire with other pressures to derail Jackie’s recovery. Rapid-fire witty dialogue should keep audiences enthralled as the pair’s beyond-complex relationship slowly unravels.

Important and timely questions of race, generation, class, and addiction are all raised in the context of love. These onstage conversation-starters should be enough to remind us just how complex, abstract, and sometimes elusive love can be, a sure cure for the simplistic love stories headed our way soon. There are few better ways to protect yourself from sugar overload than by seriously enjoying a night of laughter.

An Octoroon Majestic Repertory Theatre, November 2-19, $25, 702-423-6366.

Love, Love, Love Cockroach Theatre, November 4-19, $15-$25, 725-222-9661.

The Motherf*cker With the Hat Las Vegas Little Theatre, November 3-19, $10-$15, 702-362-7996.

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